House debates

Monday, 21 June 2021


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail

12:43 pm

Photo of Fiona PhillipsFiona Phillips (Gilmore, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the shadow minister for families and social services for allowing me to ask some questions to the minister on behalf of constituents in my electorate. I look forward to the minister's reply. I was contacted not so long ago now by a young woman, a mum, named Bianca. I was absolutely surprised, almost beyond belief, at what Bianca told me. Of course there are the cashless debit card trials, and I want to make it crystal clear that Labor will scrap the cashless debit card, but never in a million years did I think anyone in the electorate of Gilmore would be impacted, because we're not a trial site. How wrong was I?

Bianca, now residing in my electorate, originally lived in Bundaberg for several years. However, Bianca moved to Brisbane to escape domestic violence. While living in Brisbane, Bianca was placed on the cashless debit card in July 2019. Not long after, Bianca moved to Sydney and was unfortunately hit by a car, and then had a carer due to her permanent injuries. When Bianca was in hospital after being hit by the car, Bianca tells me she could not use the cashless debit card to pay for the TV to be connected, because it sold gambling products. In November 2020, Bianca complained to Centrelink about being on the cashless debit card because she went to pay for a meal in a bistro and, because they sold alcohol at the venue, she was not able to pay for her meal. Bianca said it would take up to two weeks for her rent payments to be cleared by the cashless debit card hotline, so she was constantly behind.

Bianca's complaint resulted into an investigation into Bianca's previous leases, and it was discovered that Bianca was not living in Bundaberg, the trial site for the card, at the time of the cashless debit card rollout. Bianca was then told she had been placed on the cashless debit card in error, and she was subsequently taken off the cashless debit card. But this terrible story does not end there. Now residing in my electorate, Bianca got a phone call from Services Australia saying that she had been taken off in error and had now been placed back onto the card, with no explanation. Bianca's carer also tried speaking with Services Australia and could not get any answers.

Bianca is afraid that she will not be able to pay for things, because 80 per cent of her payment goes onto the card and she only gets 20 per cent in cash. She is also worried that when she buys her groceries at Aldi, if they have only one register open and it sells alcohol, she will not be able to buy her groceries. Bianca says she has a large bust and her bras cost a lot of money. She can get the ones she needs on eBay, but, because they sell alcohol, they are not an approved seller. To purchase her bras, she must first seek approval from Indue and provide photographs of what she wants to buy. Then, if approved, she must provide proof of purchase. Bianca said it is humiliating to have to get approval to buy her underwear.

Bianca said she fled a domestic violence situation because her partner would restrict her access to money. Bianca tells me it appears that the government is now doing exactly the same thing. So, as Bianca's federal member, I worked to have Bianca permanently removed from the cashless debit card. I am assured this has now happened. I am told that every Centrelink or Services Australia office has spare cashless debit cards. Here I was, thinking it was limited to the trial sites.

So I have three questions to the minister: No. 1, how many people are on the cashless debit card in the electorate of Gilmore: No. 2, how many people are across Australia who reside outside the trial sites are on the cashless debit card; and, No. 3, given the high number of pensioners in my electorate, can the minister rule out completely that pensioners will be put onto the cashless debit card?


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